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Volume 449: debated on Monday 11 September 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the relative efficiency of the Prison Service and the private sector in delivering penal services; and if he will make a statement. (48507)

The relative efficiency of public sector and private sector delivery of penal services has been assessed through market testing. Each of the four prisons which had been managed by the private sector after opening in the early 1990s was market tested before the expiry of their contracts. In the case of two, Blakenhurst and Buckley Hall, the management was won by the Prison Service. The private sector retained the management of the other two, Doncaster and Wolds. In addition the Prison Service managed Manchester in accordance with a service level agreement (SLA) following a market test after it re-opened in 1994. The management was market tested again, in 2000, and the Prison Service won the competition and was awarded a new SLA.

The individual efficiency of all prisons, including the nine prisons designed, constructed, managed and financed under the private finance initiative, is assessed quarterly through the performance rating system which comprises a raft of performance measures such as cost performance and findings from external inspections.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what mechanisms are used to determine whether a prison is meeting the obligations contained in its service level agreement. (63294)

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) requires Service Providers to deliver high quality services as specified in the Service Level Agreement (SLA), including high performance against an operational requirements specification. Each SLA contains a Performance Measurement System (PMS) that is designed to measure the Service Providers’ delivery of the operational requirements in key areas over an agreed period.

Compliance with the requirements of the SLA includes achieving all Service Delivery Targets and providing NOMS with quality assurance systems, principally through a comprehensive self-audit programme supplemented with a range of policy documents and procedural guidance to staff, together with a meetings structure that ensures that performance, standards and contractual compliance are achieved.